December 11th, 2005 12:16 EST
Editorial Guidelines for the Local Buzz by Glenn Swift
Editorial Guidelines for the Local Buzz
Glenn R. Swift – Editor in Chief
“Language is like God turned loose in the flesh.” (Anonymous Frenchman)
The Local Buzz editorial style is based upon the Chicago Manual of Style (15th Edition). Of course, like nearly all publications, we have a few rules of our own. Those guidelines that are purely stylistic or which represent a deviation from the Chicago Manual are marked by an asterisk.
1) *Only one space after a period or colon.
2) *No Oxford commas, unless the last item in the series is a sentence fragment. Example: There are three kinds of people in this world: givers, takers, and writers who never learn from their mistakes.
3) *Try not to use exclamation marks! I’m not saying that I will cut all of them, but make a supreme effort to limit their usage.
4) *Ellipses – Feel free to use them in place of commas for effect. Journalists do this all the time, but please don’t get carried away. Example: I loved her…many years ago. As for the proper use of ellipses, see number 12.
5) Parentheses go INSIDE the period unless the text inside the parentheses is a complete sentence. In that case, the period would go inside the parentheses.
6) *Brackets – Don’t go there! Rewrite the sentence so that they are not required. (Most American readers think this looks like Trigonometry.)
7) *Numbers – Spell them out for one through nine, but starting with 10, use the numeral. With percentages, always use the numeral.
8) *With money, always use the $ sign and the numeral (e.g. $10 not ten dollars). If the amount is over $1 million, you’ve just read how you do it. This is how you write $1.5 million, not $1,500,000.
9) *With street names, if you are specifically talking about a street in a story spell out the last word of the address (i.e. the murder on Ocean Drive, the accident at Indian River Boulevard, etc). If it is a numbered street and the number is one through nine, spell the number out (i.e Ninth Street). However, if you are just listing an address (as in most cases) abbreviate the last word of the street address. (i.e. Ocean Dr., Indian River Blvd.). Also, the house number of the address is NEVER spelled out (i.e. 8 Piazza Way or 7 Kaplan Rd.). 10) *As far as ages go, always use numerals (either 5-year-old boy or Jason, 8, has a sister, 6.)
QUOTATIONS and QUOTATION MARKS
11) *You need not go crazy with attributions – especially if there’s only one person being quoted. After the tenth “he said” it is kind of obvious who’s doing the talking. Also, after you have introduced the subject, use last name only or the pronoun for the attribution. When possible, try to alternate the two.
12) *Don’t break up a sentence with an attribution. EXAMPLE: “I love writing,” said Twain, “but hate editors who think they’re gods.” Sometimes this works fine, but the practice is often awkward.
13) ALL quotation marks should be placed OUTSIDE the period or comma regardless of whether they are encapsulating a quote or a word to which you are calling attention. Also, quotation marks should always be of the double variety, unless they are designating a quote within a quote. Example: “We all remember when Neil Armstrong spoke on behalf of humanity when he said ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,’” said Saddam Hussein. (Incidentally, notice the single quote immediately followed by the double.)
14) Ellipses – These are the three little dots (…) used to inform the reader that some of the quoted material has been left out. Get in the practice of using these to “smooth out your quotes.” (This will often reveal whether or not the writer is an experienced journalist.) Remember, if you omit ANYTHING within a quote, professional integrity requires that you use ellipses. However, you are violating journalistic ethics if you do so to alter the meaning of what someone has said.
15) Correcting poor grammar is fine in a quote unless you’re deliberately trying to draw attention to the poor educational level of the person being quoted. Example: “It ain’t good,” said the Tennessee redneck. Also, you can use your journalistic license to “polish” the quote a tad, but don’t get carried away. And don’t tell anyone what I just told you.
16) Attributes should always be in the past tense. (I know it often sounds lovely to do otherwise; please accept my apologies.)COMMAS
17) Compound sentences (those with both a compound subject and predicate) require a comma before the conjunction unless the sentence is very short. Example: I rang the bell and the dog barked.
18) When a comma is required in a compound sentence, make sure it comes BEFORE the conjunction.
19) Sentences introduced by a prepositional phrase (unless it is very short) should have a comma following the object of the preposition. Example: At the dawn of the 20th century, Britain ruled over one-quarter of the world’s population and nearly one-third of the earth’s land mass.
20) When in doubt, leave it out!
21) The following transitional conjunctions (however, nevertheless, nonetheless, although, though, thus, furthermore, moreover, hence, notwithstanding, etc.) when not used to begin a sentence must be preceded by a semicolon and followed by a comma. Example: The British have highly-trained, well-equipped special forces; however, they are far fewer in number than those of the United States. To substitute a comma for the semicolon in the preceding example is referred to as a “comma splice.” Although this is commonly done in the publishing industry, the practice is incorrect. The exception to this rule is if there are very few words used prior to the transitional conjunction. If this is the case, a comma on each side of the conjunction is acceptable. Example: I agree, however, I might change my mind later. If you’re still confused, only use a transitional conjunction at the beginning of a sentence followed by a comma. Example: The deficit continues to soar. However, the economy continues to do well. The following example would also be correct: The deficit continues to soar; however, the economy continues to do well.
22) The word “but” must always be preceded by a comma. (Yes, it’s ok to begin a sentence with this word once in a while.) The exception to this rule comes when the word is used in such a way that it is not refuting the preceding text. Example: The bizarre ritual was but one of many practiced by the tribe.
23) Semicolons are not colons. There are three main uses of a semicolon (referred to as a half-stop by the British). The first is to join two independent clauses not joined by a conjunction. The second is to break up a series in which the components of the series are not merely one or two words. Example: The following writing practices will keep your editors off your backs: not misspelling words, avoiding “jargonese” and highly technical language; not switching tenses in the middle of a sentence; avoiding the splitting of infinitives and compound verbs; and adhering to a coherent paragraph structure.
HYPHENS and DASHES
24) There is a difference! A dash is TWICE the length of a hyphen with a space on each side. (One editor told me recently that the improper usage of dashes and hyphens in submitted text provides her with a litmus test to see if a prospective writer understands grammar.)
SPLTTING INFINITIVES and COMPOUND VERBS
25) Although the British consider the above practices to be crimes against humanity, American publishers are becoming more tolerant in recent years. Nevertheless, the practice is incorrect and should be avoided (except in those cases when it does sound better doing otherwise). The following two sentences are examples of incorrect usage: 1) The soldier was ordered to quickly run to the other side of the bridge; 2) The desperate people of New Orleans have largely become disillusioned from the lack of government assistance. TRANSITION
This separates the good writers from the mediocre ones. Make sure that all your sentences flow coherently from one to the next. The two most important sentences are the introductory sentence and the closing sentence of a paragraph.
Don’t jump around wildly by introducing new thoughts and ideas without preparing the reader accordingly.HELPFUL TIPS
26) Avoid using the word “it” whenever possible. It’s weak and often ambiguous! By the way, its in the possessive does NOT have an apostrophe. Speaking of, there is an organization in Britain dedicated to the preservation of this wonderful creation -- The Apostrophe Society. (Judging by what I see nearly every day, a similar group on this side of the pond is desperately needed.)
27) “that and which” – Know when to use them correctly.
28) Be consistent with tense usage. This can be very confusing to the reader and fill an editor with psychopathic rage.
29) Word redundancies -- Nothing weakens writing more.30) Always proof your work thoroughly. There should NEVER be a misspelled word in any of your submitted work, or more than three red marks of any kind for every 1000 words of text. Lastly, be sure to study the edits made to your writing.